The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Harry Rodriguez sued Defendants captains and
officials at Stateville Correctional Center ("Stateville") under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his Constitutional rights to meals and
showers. Defendants moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated
herein, Defendants' motion is granted.
Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if
any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619
, 625 (7th
Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242
, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986)). The party seeking summary
judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317
, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). A party will successfully
oppose summary judgment only if it presents "definite, competent evidence
to rebut the motion." Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Roebuck
& Co., 233 F.3d 432
, 437 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court "considers
the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor." Lesch v.
Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467
, 471 (7th Cir. 2002),
Plaintiff Harry Rodriguez is an inmate at Stateville. He is serving a
sentence for murder, home invasion, and burglary. (R. 38-1, Def.'s
Statement of Facts ¶ 1.) Defendant Briley is the warden of
Stateville. Donald Snyder is the director of the Illinois Department of
Corrections. Defendant George DeTella is the Assistant Director of the
Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendants Hughes and Stigler are
captains at Stateville. (R.15-1, First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-8.)
Beginning in the summer of 2000, Plaintiff contends that correctional
officers at Stateville forced him to miss between 300 and 350 meals and
at least 15 showers because of violations of the Storage Box Rule. (R.
40-1, Pl.'s Statement of Additional Facts ¶¶ 5, 11, 12, 16.)*fn1 The
Storage Box Rule required inmates to stow most of their belongings in a
box at any time they were outside of their cells. Failure to comply with
this rule resulted in confinement of the inmate to his cell.
(Id. at ¶ 23.) Because Plaintiff was confined to his cell,
he could not
shower or eat lunch or dinner.
Defendants contend that they had no personal knowledge of Plaintiff
missing any meals. (R. 38-1, Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 14-32.) In
response, Plaintiff points to his own deposition testimony, and that of a
former cell mate, Marcus Hubbard, detailing the meal and shower
deprivation and Plaintiffs complaints to guards. Plaintiff contends that
he complained directly to Hughes, Stigler, and DeTella, and sent letters
of complaint to Briley. (R. 40-1, Pl's Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Facts
¶ 13.) Plaintiff further asserts that Defendants Briley, DeTella, and
Snyder deprived him of showers and meals by acting through their agents
at Stateville. (Id.) In deposition testimony, Defendants deny
that they knew about Plaintiff missing meals or showers in connection
with violation of prison rules.
Defendants move for summary judgment on two separate grounds. First,
Defendants argue that deprivation of food and showers as punishment for
violation of the Storage Box Rule is not a violation of the Eighth
Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishment. Second,
Defendants argue that they did not personally deprive Plaintiff of meals
or showers, and are therefore not liable under Section 1983.
I. Constitutionality of the Storage Box Rule Punishment
To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must show that the
prison failed to "provide for his basic human needs" because of
deliberate indifference on the part of prison officials. Reed v.
McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 852 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Helling v.
McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32, 113 S.Ct. 2475, 125 L.Ed.2d 22 (1993));
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S.Ct. 1970,
128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994); Dunigan ex rel. Nyman v. Winnebago County,
165 F.3d 587, 590 (7th Cir. 1999). This showing involves a two-part
test requiring the plaintiff to show that: (1) the deprivation was
objectively serious, and (2) state officials acted with the "requisite
culpable state of mind, deliberate indifference. . . ."
Dunigan, 165 F.3d at 590 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834). A deprivation is objectively serious if it results in a denial of
"the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Farmer,
511 U.S. at 834.
The Seventh Circuit has held that "in some circumstances an inmate's
claim that he was denied food may satisfy the first Farmer
prong. This is not to say that withholding of food is a per se
objective violation of the Constitution; instead, a court must assess the
amount and duration of the deprivation." Reed v. McBride,
178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th Cir. 1999) (noting that the inmate had special medical
needs and that "no extraordinary or extenuating circumstances appear to
exist" that would preclude an Eighth Amendment claim). Withholding
showers for a sufficient period of time could also be a Constitutional
violation, although Plaintiff would have to miss a significant number of
showers in order to fall short of "the minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities." See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.
In this case, Plaintiff has only alleged that he missed 15 showers
(including four consecutive showers over a two-week period) because of
violations of the Storage Box Rule.*fn2 It is undisputed that Plaintiff
had access to running water and toiletries in his cell. Although
Plaintiff complains that bathing in his cell disturbed his asthma
condition, this disturbance is not
sufficient to turn a lack of merely 15 showers over the course of
several months into an objectively serious deprivation. Further, although
he claims to have developed a rash from not showering, Plaintiff has not
supported this complaint with any medical evidence.*fn3 Defendants'
motion is therefore granted with respect to Plaintiffs alleged missed
With regard to food, Plaintiff has testified that prison officials
prevented him from eating between 300 and 350 meals and that he
repeatedly complained directly to Hughes, Stigler, and others about this
deprivation. Defendants offer their own testimony, contending that they
were not aware of any such deprivations. As a result, the Court is faced
with a "swearing contest" between the parties to determine whether
Plaintiff was forced to miss meals for violating a prison rule. Payne
v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003) ("As we have said many
times, summary judgment cannot be used to resolve swearing contests
between litigants."). Accordingly, summary judgment is not proper on the
issues of whether Plaintiff missed 300-350 meals and whether
Hughes and Stigler knew about the deprivation.
There is some question, however, as to whether this deprivation of food
was objectively serious in Plaintiffs case. It is undisputed that
Plaintiff had breakfast delivered to his cell every morning.*fn4 It is
also undisputed that Plaintiff ordered food from the prison commissary
and that the commissary food was delivered directly to Plaintiffs cell.
Nevertheless, the deprivation of
more than 300 meals over the course of a year even with
breakfasts and commissary items-could have a serious effect on an
inmate's health. The Court is reluctant to rule that Plaintiff, who
apparently left breakfasts uneaten for the sake ...